GREG PRYOR: Rabbit-proof fence design seems to be working

Apr 28, 2017

In a previous article, I wrote about how to keep rabbits from getting into the garden. It is easier said than done. My main garden fence, which I described earlier, still works fine. But my new, larger, fenced-in, second garden has suffered from the voracious appetites of rabbits.
Last fall, I transplanted 150 collard plants that I grew and nurtured from seed, only to have them disappear overnight. The telltale rabbit tracks indicated that those varmints had dug under the chain link fence surrounding the new garden. They also started chewing the bark off the base of my blueberry and blackberry bushes.
After some more research and experimentation, I now have a rabbit-proof fence design that seems to be working.
The design is loosely based on Australia’s “Rabbit Proof Fence,” which stretches over 2,000 miles. That fence was built in 1907 to keep out destructive European rabbits, which became major economic and ecological pests after their deliberate release in South Australia (for hunting).
Because rabbits easily and quickly dig under any fence that loosely touches the ground, the key to a successful rabbit proof fence is to extend buried fencing a foot or more outward from the bottom of the fence. If the rabbits try to dig under the fence, they are stopped by the buried wire mesh.
To make my chain-link fence rabbit proof, I bought rolls of livestock wire mesh that were 3 feet high, with 2–by–3 inch rectangular openings. I unrolled the wire and bent it into an L shape, with the bottom of the L spanning 15 inches outward, and the vertical leg of the L extending 21 inches upward.
Next, I laid the wire mesh against the chain-link fence, so that the L extended outward 15 inches, laid flat against the ground.
Originally, I considered pouring concrete to securely cover the wire mesh on the ground. However, I needed around 700 linear feet covered. Even with the help of a concrete delivery truck, it would have been expensive, heavy and awkward to wheelbarrow, messy, and difficult to spread evenly.
With that in mind, I ordered a truckload of decomposed granite (crushed granite). It is commonly used for walkways in parks. It is inexpensive, easy to shovel and spread, and forms a dense, compact layer after tamping.
After putting down a couple of tons of the granite (yes, tons; the new garden area is over an acre in size) along the entire fence line, I then tamped it down with a heavy steel tamper. Tampers are available in the gardening tool section of home improvement stores, and are surprisingly handy on the farm. Alternatively, you could just stomp on it with your feet or tamp it with something heavy and flat.
To secure the loose wire mesh to the chain-link fence, I used metal cage clips. They are used to make wire mesh cages for pet rabbits and birds. The clips were installed using a special pair of pliers that squeezed the clip tightly, binding together the wire mesh and chain-link fencing wire. I put a clip along the top edge of the wire mesh fencing approximately every two feet. You could use short sections of wire (such as aluminum electric fence wire), twisting them with regular pliers around the fencing like a twist-tie.
The ground beneath the gates presented a problem. The L shaped fencing cannot be applied to gates because they swing open. I simply tamped down the crushed granite under the gate, leaving as little space as possible between the bottom of the gate and the granite.
However, a rabbit dug under that the first night it was installed. It hasn’t happened since then, but I will likely remove the granite and pour concrete under the gates to fix that problem.
Preventing rabbits from eating your garden plants is certainly no easy feat. But if you follow these guidelines, you can avoid having a bad hare day.


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